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Saudi focus: Meeting the challenge, by Hashtag’s Najma Alsharif

Hashtag’s Najma Alsharif asks whether brands in Saudi should be on TikTok.

The attention of a generation goes to a platform that gets it best, and so far TikTok seems to hit the sweet spot, reflected in its massive growth.

TikTok took the world by storm and is the fastest platform to reach 1 billion active users in no time, with more than 2 billion downloads now making TikTok a prominent social platform globally, existing in 154 countries and more than 75 languages. 

The Saudi audience was part of this growth; however, we still don’t see Saudi brands taking advantage of the amazing organic reach this platform offers.

The platform gained traction in Saudi Arabia during March and April 2020 with 11 million active users during the Covid-19 lockdown. Global TikTok users tend to be aged between 16 and 29; we find that the majority of Saudi Arabian population are youth, which helped the platform to spread quickly and it now has 15 million active users out of 28 million overall active social media users in Saudi.

TikTok was able to reach this many users based on the concept it provides and the challenges trending on it, which allowed some Saudi brands to jump on the trends and present their products and services with creative TikTok video content that the audience could relate to. These brands included STC, Almarai, Noon and Jarir Bookstore.

TikTok is becoming the content leader in Saudi Arabia, where you can see TikTok video content overflowing to all other platforms as it enables its audience to get creative and express themselves and the topics they’re interested in. The Saudi audience is producing content around some key topics, mostly memes and comedy videos. These generated 13 billion views when positive, humorous, and fun content were a necessity in our daily lives. 

Another popular theme is cooking and food. During the Holy Month of Ramadan in 2020, which most families spent apart during lockdown, TikTok was one of the platforms that brought families closer together to share their iftar and suhoor meals and healthy recipes through short videos, accumulating 7 billion views on this topic.

The most viewed content, though, in Saudi is diaries and vlogs, which have been viewed 35 billion times. It comes as no surprise, as this topic includes original content published by users and demonstrates creativity in making videos, storytelling and shared interests. This has led to many Saudi influencers emerging through TikTok, which is one of the major launchpads for influencers in the world.

So, is it worth it for your brand to be on TikTok? The Saudi audience has split opinions about the platform – between those pro or against. Our verdict is that this platform has grown out of its roots to reach other platforms, and even if you’re not an active user, TikTok content will still reach you on other platforms. That is why we believe it is worth your time and investment.

However, getting the right content on TikTok can be challenging; you will need to listen and observe what content is circulating on the platform and then create the right formula around your brand to bring it to life and have your brand persona interact with the audience and spark a conversation. 

TikTok loves UGC (user-generated content) and this organic content poses a challenge to brands aiming to have an always-on presence and maintain their tone of voice. Additionally, for better reach on TikTok you will need a creative challenge with an incentive to get the audience to participate, pair your campaign with the right influencers, prepare the right media plan, and use humour and memes that are trending and that your audience can relate to.

Last but not least, pick the right music to go with the challenge. Music plays a big role in making your challenge easily identified among your audience, and hence can hugely contribute to the virality of your brand challenge. Even if we look at advertising rates, we can see TikTok’s rates may be greatly preferential in comparison to other platforms

In conclusion, TikTok has a huge audience base in Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Therefore it holds infinite potential for you to grow your brand and to reach your audience on one of their favourite platforms by shedding rigid, formal communication and getting real and unconventionally fun with them by providing
them with original, creative, relatable and humorous content that can go beyond the podium and sit among the crowds.